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In the news 6 July

UCU to ballot higher education staff for industrial action over pay

UCU members working in higher education are to be balloted for industrial action as part of a row over pay. The ballot will open in August and close in October 2018. UCU said a final offer of 2% from the Universities and Colleges Employers Association did nothing to address years of real-terms cuts to pay.

The ballot follows an initial consultation with members in which 82% voted to reject the offer and 65% said they were prepared to take industrial action in defence of their pay. Turnout was 47.7%. UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, told Times Higher Education that universities could afford to pay more, but were spending money on capital expenditure instead.

She said: 'Staff working in our universities have had enough of seeing their wages held down while institutions prioritise capital spending and building reserves. The employers' below-inflation pay offer does nothing to address years of decline in the value of higher education pay so we now have little option but to ballot for strike action.'


Sally Hunt attacks Theresa May's record on LGBT+ rights

Speaking at the TUC LGBT+ conference this morning, Sally attacked the prime minister's voting record on LGBT+ rights and said she could not be an ally of the LGBT+ community if she didn't stand up to the bigoted DUP.

Pulling no punches, Sally said the UK cannot take progress on equality for granted when the country is led by the Conservative government with Theresa May at the helm.

Earlier this week, Theresa May said she had "developed her view" on LGBT+ issues and apologised for how she had voted in the past. She also said she had never prayed for someone to change their sexuality. In July 2000, Theresa May voted to maintain Section 28 and she told a student newspaper in 2001 that "most parents want the comfort of knowing Section 28 is there".

Union News reported that Sally, who is also speaking at tomorrow's Pride event in London, attacked the government's handling of Brexit and warned that Theresa May cannot be trusted to protect workers' rights while seeking a Brexit deal to satisfy the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg.


Jeremy Corbyn congratulates UCU members for strike win

Jeremy Corbyn has congratulated UCU members at the Capital City College Group for achieving "justice" by gaining more secure employment contracts and a one-off payment.  Tes reported how the leader of the opposition wrote to the local UCU branch after members' "significant victory" in acquiring fractional posts for casual employees and a one-off £500 payment to all staff.

In his message, Jeremy Corbyn said: 'Further education must have the funds to be able to pay its staff a decent living wage and secure contracts of employment so that you can continue with this vital work. I will continue to ensure that FE is not allowed to be forgotten when it comes to the allocation of funding.'


Universities minister's "morally objectionable" policies attacked

Peter Scott in the Guardian on Tuesday attacked universities minister Sam Gyimah's "morally objectionable" policies, but pointed out that they are "utterly logical in terms of reckless market ideology". He tore apart the minister's belief that a degree's value can only be measured in terms of future earnings and concluded that, given the government's incoherence and divisions about Brexit, it is hardly reasonable to expect sane and sensible public policy anywhere else.

In a bizarre attempt to defend his position, Gyimah tweeted that he thought the piece was "plain wrong" and universities should expect "tough accountability" to ensure students got "high quality" education. This prompted dozens of replies that exposed the flaws in government policy, Gyimah's lack of evidence for any of his recent assertions in the free speech debate and how earnings cannot be a suitable metric for measuring the quality or value of education.


Universities minister under fire for lack of evidence for anecdote

Sam Gyimah's lack of evidence for his recent shocking tales of censorship on campus remains a problem. Two weeks ago the Independent reported that the universities minister found himself in a spot of bother after King's College flatly denied a story he told about a student reporting a lecturer for hate speech.

Last week the minister told the Times that when he spoke at a university recently they read out the safe space policy, which took 20 minutes. Gyimah did not name the institution on this occasion. However, that did not stop Research Fortnight contacting all the eight universities that Gyimah has visited so far on his tour and asking if the incident, as described by the minister, had taken place during his visit to campus. All eight said no such incident had occurred on Gyimah's visit to their institution.


More problems for government's flagship University Technical Colleges

Three university technical colleges (UTC) were given an "inadequate" rating by Ofsted this week. The latest verdicts mean that over a quarter of the UTCs inspected to date have been given the lowest possible overall grade.

FE Week said the news is sure to be an embarrassment to the Conservative party, which pledged to have a UTC "within reach of every city" in its 2015 manifesto.

Ten of the 36 UTCs inspected by Ofsted, or 28 per cent, have received a grade 4 verdict. A further 13 have been rated "requires improvement", meaning two-thirds (64 per cent) are rated less than good. FE week also reported this week that nine UTCs have closed after failing to attract enough pupils.


Retweets for Reading as unapologetic defence of refuge scholarship goes viral

Times Higher Education reported this week how a tweet from the University of Reading unapologetically defending its refuge scholarship went viral. The tweet said: 'We've had feedback over the last week that some people are unhappy with our plan to offer up to 14 scholarships to refugees living in the local area. To these people, we would like to say: Tough. Jog on.'

THE said adopting a no-nonsense tone on a public platform might seem risky, but the tweet, posted on Monday, has so far garnered 24,000 retweets, 73,000 likes and more than 1,400 comments.


Last updated: 6 July 2018